RAM boys Gringo Honasan, Eduardo Kapunan, Rey Rivera and Tito Legaspi PHOTO FROM “Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Four-Day Revolution in the Philippines”
The Edsa People Power Revolt on Feb. 22 to 25, 1986, had a cast of thousands, many of them political and military figures who remain familiar names in recent headlines. From being Marcos allies, many have shifted loyalties to become rebel forces who, thanks to their burnished image during Edsa, were later elected local officials, senators and even President.
Here are some of Edsa’s key personalities, and the role they played in changing Philippine history during those four crucial days.
COL. JOSE ALMONTE. One of the founders of Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), who warned then opposition leader Corazon Aquino, her brother Jose Cojuangco and Jaime Cardinal Sin about an impending event on the third week of February 1986. He also offered to provide security to Aquino.
In RAM’s planned coup d’etat, two groups would attack Malacañang and capture then President Ferdinand Marcos. Almonte’s assignment, along with Lt. Col. Victor Batac, was to man the RAM command post at Nichols Field, where a battalion from Trece Martires City in Cavite would join them. The coup was aborted when Marcos discovered the plot a day before its launching. Subsequent events led to the Edsa revolt.
EUGENIA APOSTOL. Founding chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and publisher of the tabloid Mr. & Ms Special Editions, two of the leading papers that openly opposed the Marcos regime.
On the afternoon of Day 1, Feb. 22, Apostol was in the Inquirer office when she got a call from Cristina Enrile, wife of then defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile, informing her about the latter’s arrest. “Will you help us? Will you call the cardinal for us?” she asked Apostol, who then called the Archbishop’s Palace but failed to talk to him. Apostol told colleagues Betty Go Belmonte and Lita Logarta to find a way to get in touch with the cardinal, while she dashed off to the Enriles’ house in Dasmariñas Village. She also told then Inquirer editor in chief, Louie Beltran, about the call, which led to the newspaper being in the midst of the Filipino people’s unfolding big story which was developing so fast that the Inquirer had to publish three Extra editions (on Feb. 23, 24 and 25, 1986) to report the news as soon as it happened.
AGAPITO “BUTZ” AQUINO. A founding member of the August 21 Movement (Atom), which was set up after the 1983 assassination of his brother, Ninoy Aquino. It was Butz who first rallied people to go to Edsa, after declaring Atom’s support for the Enrile-Ramos group. Over the radio, he asked other anti-Marcos groups to convene at Cindy’s fast food on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao. Atom members were among the first to do so.
CORAZON AQUINO. Widow of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the staunchest critic of Marcos, who emerged as the leader of the opposition after he was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983, on his return from exile in the US. When Marcos called for snap presidential elections in late 1985, she was drafted as opposition candidate, with former Sen. Salvador Laurel as her vice president.
Marcos was proclaimed winner in the elections held on Feb. 7, 1986, amidst allegations of widespread fraud and violence. Aquino disputed the results in a Tagumpay ng Bayan (People’s Victory) rally at Rizal Park attended by at least four million supporters, where she vowed to lead a civil disobedience campaign and a boycott of crony-owned businesses to force Marcos to step down.
On Feb. 25, Day 4 of the Edsa uprising, she took her oath as president before Supreme Court Senior Justice Claudio Teehankee at Club Filipino.
JUNE KEITHLEY-CASTRO. Radio broadcaster during the Edsa revolt who gave the Filipinos a blow-by-blow account of the revolution despite prevailing media censorship. After announcing their breakaway from Marcos on Feb. 22, Enrile and Ramos asked Fr. James Reuter to have someone go on air to give guidance to the people. Reuter sent Keithley to the Church-run Radio Veritas, which had broadcast Cardinal Sin’s historic appeal for the people to go to Edsa.
After government forces shut down Radio Veritas, Keithley and her team moved to the dzRJ facilities in Sta. Mesa. To keep their location secret, the group used the Veritas’ frequency of 840 and took the name “Radyo Bandido.”
CRISTINA PONCE ENRILE. Wife of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile who acted as go-between between Enrile and PDI founding chair Apostol. On Feb.22, she requested Apostol to call Cardinal Sin and alert the foreign press about her husband’s pullout as a Marcos ally. Unable to contact the cardinal and aware that Malacañang saw her as an adversary, Apostol asked Betty Go Belmonte to make the calls while she rushed to keep a frightened Cristina company until the last day of Edsa.
JUAN PONCE ENRILE, Marcos’ defense secretary and central political figure in the coup plot against him with rebel troops from RAM. It was planned at 2 a.m. of Feb. 23, 1986, but was discovered the day before.
Hours after the discovery, Enrile withdrew support from Marcos along with Fidel Ramos, then vice chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They also recognized Aquino as the duly elected President.
THE MARCOSES Ferdinand and Imelda PHOTO FROM “CHRONOLOGY OF A REVOLUTION”
FOREIGN PRESS. The Manila-based foreign correspondents went straight to Camp Aguinaldo on the night of Feb. 22 upon learning about the failed coup plot and stayed with Enrile and his mutineers. Their presence emboldened Enrile to warn Marcos the next day against killing him, lest he “go down in history as butchers of your own officers and men, of the Filipino people, and of foreign mediamen.”
GREGORIO HONASAN, Enrile’s chief security aide cofounded the RAM with four others in 1982 following reports of plans to eliminate Enrile and the “MND (Ministry of National Defense) boys.”
Also one of the masterminds behind the Malacañang assault, together with Col.
Eduardo Kapunan and Col. Victor Batac.
On learning that Malacañang had fortified its troops against RAM, Honasan and Kapunan convinced Enrile to fly to Cagayan and hide, but Enrile instead decided to regroup at Camp Aguinaldo.
EDUARDO KAPUNAN. An original member of RAM, Air Force Lt. Col. Eduardo “Red” Kapunan was one of the few AFP officers who openly went against Marcos early on.
According to the RAM plot, Kapunan and Lt. Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo would lead the group who would attack the Presidential Guards on the south bank of the Pasig River. His group would complement Honasan’s smaller assault team who was to capture Marcos at dawn of Feb. 23. When the plot was uncovered, Kapunan and other RAM members took a last stand in Camp Aguinaldo with Enrile.
SALVADOR “DOY” LAUREL. The former senator organized the opposition during the martial law years and gave up his presidential ambitions in favor of Corazon Aquino in the 1986 snap elections that preceded Edsa.
On Feb. 25, Day 4, he was sworn in as vice president and was appointed prime minister in the Cory government.
ALFREDO LIM. Metropolitan Police chief who ignored orders to disperse the crowds at Edsa who were there to protect the rebels holed up at Camp Crame. Malacañang had sent tanks to assault Crame but could not get through the crowds. Lim’s order was to disperse the crowd of less than 1,000 with the 800 policemen he had with him on Day 2, but he refused. On Feb. 25, Lim and his men entered Camp Crame and were welcomed by Ramos.
FERDINAND MARCOS JR. Only son among three children of Ferdinand Sr. and Imelda. Dressed in fatigues, he acted like a security agent to the sickly dictator as they left the Palace on the evening of Feb. 25, 1986.
IMELDA MARCOS was initially reluctant to leave the Palace and seemed in denial about the situation. After Marcos’ oath-taking ceremonies at the Malacañang Ceremonial Hall on Feb. 25, 1986, whose television coverage had been abruptly cut off by rebel allies, the Marcoses took to the balcony and waved to their supporters. An impeccably groomed Imelda led the crowd in singing “Dahil Sa Iyo.” She also handed out payroll envelopes with P10,000 each to the remaining Palace personnel before they left.
IMEE MARCOS-MANOTOC, Marcos’ eldest daughter, was in tears with sister Irene, pleading with their father to leave for the US amid his vow to die in the Palace. Her husband Tommy Manotoc had relayed the offer of US Brig. Gen. Ted Allen for them to use American helicopters or boats to move Marcos out.
NUNS STOPPING TANKS. Heeding Cardinal Sin’s call for them to protect the breakaway groups, members of religious orders trooped to Edsa, among them Religious of the Sacred Heart nuns Maribel Carceller, Digna Dacanay and Edy Talastas, who were among the first to get there. Like other religious groups, they distributed food to the soldiers, led in praying the rosary and as shown in subsequent photos, kneeled in front of tanks to stop forces loyal to Marcos.
PROSPERO OLIVAS. Senior general of the Metropolitan Command who was unable to carry out Marcos’ order to disperse the crowd at Edsa, saying it was beyond his troops’ control. Before Edsa, he was accused of being one of 26 linked to the Aquino assassination.
FIDEL RAMOS. The former chief of the Philippine Constabulary (forerunner of today’s Philippine National Police) and Armed Forces vice chief of staff withdrew support from Marcos and joined Enrile’s planned coup as leader of military and police operations. When he heard the premature news that Marcos had left Malacañang on the third day of Edsa, Ramos jumped with joy, an iconic image he would use in his presidential bid in 1992.
FR. JAMES REUTER, SISTER SARAH MANAPOL, PABLO AND GABE MERCADO. Keithley, Reuter and Manapol ran the clandestine “Radyo Bandido,” which broadcast updates of the events unfolding at Edsa from Feb. 22 to 25, despite threats of arrest from the pro-Marcos military.
Pablo and Gabe Mercado (then 13 and 15 years old, respectively) were the volunteers who helped Keithley at the secret station, while Sister Sarah Manapol provided the information for broadcast.
JAIME CARDINAL SIN. The Archbishop of Manila became a driving force in ousting Marcos when he sounded the clarion call for people to mass at Edsa to defend the rebels led by Enrile and Ramos. Although it was Butz Aquino who made the first call for people power, even he acknowledged that it was Sin who packed them at Edsa. From about 2,000 people midnight on Day 1, the crowd swelled to 100,000 by noon of Day 2, thanks to the cardinal’s call.
ANTONIO SOTELO. This former Air Force chief turned the tide in favor of the rebels when he led the defection of the Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing, ignoring Marcos’ order for them to disable the helicopters in the rebel-held Camp Crame on Feb. 24. Sotelo’s defection came at a decisive moment, just after a Marcos loyalist Marine detachment had infiltrated Camp Aguinaldo and set up artillery and mortars across Edsa, from where the rebel forces were holed up.
ARTEMIO TADIAR. Brigadier general who was part of Marcos’ loyalist troops. On the second day of Edsa, Feb. 23, soldiers under his command trooped to Edsa with armored tanks and carriers. But Tadiar’s forces did not attack the crowd armed with rosaries, flowers and food.
FABIAN VER. Armed Forces chief of staff loyal to Marcos who was accused of rewarding loyalty instead of merit. On
Feb. 22, Day 1 of the revolt, US Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Bosworth and Philip Habib, US President Ronald Reagan’s “trouble-shooter,” told Marcos of the worsening political crisis and the need to remove Ver from office.
A Marcos loyalist to the very end, Ver fortified the Palace on learning of the impending coup by RAM. He also ordered that Radio Veritas be destroyed and that troops loyal to Marcos launch a final “suicide assault” against the rebel forces on the afternoon of Feb. 24. He and his family fled to Hawaii with the Marcoses on the evening of Feb. 25. Compiled by Rafael L. Antonio, Kathleen de Villa and Minerva Generalao, Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives, Chronology of A Revolution by Angela Stuart-Santiago